The nature of how the Mosaic Law relates to the Gospel and the new covenant is a perennially problematic question. Luther and Calvin wrestled over this, and we continue to wrestle over this down to today. Jason C. Meyer picks up his pen to try and tackle this problem in his book "The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology", as part of the New American Commentary Studies in Bible and Theology from Broadman and Holman.
With such an enormous topic, it is doubtful that Meyer will please everyone. And while I found much that was excellent in his book, there were moments where I thought he didn't handle something well enough and times where I wished he would have dealt with a topic that he passed over. But I can't fault Meyer for not tackling head-on, an important question. He does an able job dealing with this question and his book was truly a joy to read.
Meyer's book presents the problem of how the Mosaic covenant is handled in Paul and then focuses on the old/new antithesis in Paul as the solution to this problem. He studies Paul's epistles to see how Paul himself presents the old vs. the new, and particularly how he talks of the covenant. From this a few key passages are identified and discussed in detail: 2 Corinthians 3-4, Galatians 3-4, and Romans 9-11. Then after dealing with Paul's theology of the old and new, Meyer goes to the Old Testament himself to see if he can harmonize Paul with the Old Testament's own description of the Mosaic covenant, in its own terms.
Meyer's conclusions are that Paul sees a difference between the Old covenant and New Covenant in eschatological terms. The old was ineffectual and is proven so by the presence of the new covenant in the here and now. With the dawn of the new age, the old covenant is seen for how ineffectual it was. The new covenant has the power to create lasting change through the presence of the Spirit in far greater measure than in the old.
Along the way, Meyer offers a masterful analysis of the texts he covers and models a careful, yet thoroughly evangelical approach to Scripture, which focuses on the authorial intent and canonical form of the text. My primary issue with his exegesis is in his making too much of Romans 11 and failing to deal adequately with the fact that in the new covenant we still have those who are visible members but not actual partakers of the covenant. I also wish he would deal more explicitly with the question of Israel and the Church: does the old/new antithesis in Paul imply that the church should be seen as the new and fuller expression of believing Israel? I suspect Meyer would say yes, but he doesn't come right out and address this.
The book makes for a fascinating read, and will be appreciated by lay students as well as pastors and scholars. Knowledge of exegesis and theology will help in being able to appreciate the book more, however. Meyer writes with clarity and has a knack for boiling down complex issues and explaining what other more technical writers are saying. He interacts with the voluminous literature on the topic well, and maintains a thoroughly evangelical approach throughout. This is a refreshing read and I highly recommend it.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Broadman and Holman Publishing Group for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
on December 30, 2010
This is a great study proving the nature of the New Covenant as a covenant of God's eschatological intervention on behalf of His people. I was glad to see the brief section about implications at the end of the study, but I hoped to see more development in that area. I'm sure space was an issue. But I really want to know what the author thinks about various approaches to New Covenant Theology and how they affect questions like how the Sabbath applies in this age. I want the author to defend his views about specific issues like that, in light of anticipated objections by classical covenant theologians and the like. That's all probably best saved for a whole other book, though.
This study was methodologically sophisticated, thorough, and persuasive. It will serve as a fantastic spring-board for further studies into all the various implications of the idea of the newness of the New Covenant as God's salvific, eschatological intervention.
on July 17, 2013
Jason C. Meyer has written an excellent book. His thesis, as summarized at the end of the book, is as follows:
"Paul conceives of the Mosaic (old) covenant as fundamentally non-eschatological in contrast to the eschatological nature of the new covenant. He declares that the Mosaic covenant is now "old" because it belongs to the old age, whereas the new covenant is "new" because it belongs to the new eschatological age. This distinction has determinative effects. The old is transitory and impotent, and therefore the Mosaic covenant is both transitory and ineffectual. The new covenant is both eternal and effectual because it belongs to the new age and partakes of the power of the new age, the Holy Spirit.
"As the eschatological covenant, the new covenant, unlike the old, consists of eschatological intervention. God intervenes through His Spirit in the new eschatological age in order to create that for which He calls in the new covenant. The Mosaic covenant lacked this power to produce what it demanded."
Although the chapters were long, they were clearly written, and ended with clear and concise summaries. The final chapter of the book was most appreciated, as he provided a short summary of the whole book and each chapter. Meyer also ended with a brief look at how his thesis practically applies to ecclesiology and ethics. These practical applications were excellent!
on July 24, 2013
Jason Meyers is now preaching pastor at Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis, MN taking over when John Piper recently retired from the position. That tells you something of how highly Meyers is thought of in Evangelical Christianity. This work on the relationship of the Mosaic Law to Christ in Pauline Theology is one of the best, and thoroughly biblical treatments of a subject which is of great interest to me. The author very clearly and with sound exegesis shows what is truly meant by "Christ is the end of the law". This area is not arcane academic theology, it matters very much who the inheritors of the promise truly are-- and what is meant by the "promises and covenants" A lot of bad theology has been mined from a misunderstanding and placement of the OT, "The End of The Law' is a good anti-dote.
on February 3, 2015
You can read my full review here: spoiledmilks wordpress com
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." [Matt 5.17].
"For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes" [Rom 10.4]
Meyer's premise starts with the issue that how we understand the old and new covenants an their relation to each other has a huge impact on how we understand the Old and New Testaments. What is so 'new' about the new covenant? What is so 'old' about the old covenant? The central question of Meyer's study is about the character of the Mosaic covenant, especially in Paul's theology.
Meyer's thesis, that he will go on to prove, advances that Paul conceives of the Mosaic covenant as non-eschatological, while the new covenant is eschatological. Essentially, "the old covenant is now old because it belongs to the old age, whereas the new covenant is new because it belongs to the new eschatological age" (p. 1-2). The old age, and now the Mosaic covenant, are impermanent. "the new covenant is both eternal and effectual because it belongs to the new age and partakes of the power of the new age, the Holy Spirit" (p. 2).
First, Chapter 3 looks at the Old and New antithesis in Paul. Meyer exegetically reveals what makes up the difference in the two terms 'old' and 'new'. Throughout the Old and New testament, 'new' and 'old' are sometimes used temporally. Thinking of Christmas time coming, when I received 'new' toys for Christmas, suddenly my other toys became 'old.' My new toys were not one year 'old', but were 'new' today.
Secondly, Chapter 4 came at the perfect time. In teaching 2 Corinthians this semester, my dilemma came in 2 Cor 3 where Paul discusses the New Covenant and its super-cession of the Old. I had commentaries from both Hafemann and Garland, the former Meyer admires but differs greatly on, the latter agreeing with many of Hafemann's conclusions. "Hafemann argues that the old covenant is identical in content with the new covenant; they are co-equal in grace and glory" (p. 112). Yet Meyer has well-shown that 'new' and 'old' are entirely different.
Throughout, Meyer examines the long-held difficulty of the veil of Moses. While I don't think Meyer has answered it in full, he gives an incredible understanding of the veiled experience of Israel in the old age under the old covenant and the unveiled experience of believers in Christ in the new age under the new covenant. Why would Moses veil his face from Israel? What is significant about Israel being hardened even up "to this day"? Meyer draws themes from the OT and shows how this new age and covenant with Holy Spirit is far superior (2 Cor 3.7-11) than the old age and covenant without the Spirit.
This book has a thorough flair of academic to it. Which for some won't sound enticing in the least, for they would only want to know how this helps them. For others, this is exactly what they want for this helps them to know the text.
Meyer's purpose is to help the church understand God's Word better, and thus each other and the life we live. That is helped in having a greater knowledge of the Holy Spirit through the new covenant. What the old covenant didn't have, believers under the new covenant now have, that being the Holy Spirit who has softened our hearts (2 Cor 3.14, 16-18) and who gives us the ability to endure life's trials (2 Cor 4.13).
I'll provide a long footnote from Meyer's final chapter, which is a helpful concluding summary chapter on the rest of his book: In chapter three "we saw that Paul emphasized the removal of or the release from the 'old thing,' and the advent and continuation of the 'new thing.' A release from the old is a release from sin and death, while entering or becoming the new results in righteousness, fruit-bearing, and life. Freedom from the 'old thing' is a release from the experience of the 'old age,' which is characterized by sin and death, and ruled by the old Adam, while entering or becoming the 'new things' is entering the experience of the new age, which is characterized by righteousness and life, and ruled by the new Adam" (p 274, fn 33).
on November 8, 2014
Much ink has been spilled and much debate has raged concerning the Mosaic and New Covenants. Did Jesus abrogate the former covenant or did he renew that covenant and bring its intent and purpose to full completion? What is the relationship between the covenants if there is any relationship at all? These and many other related issues are addressed with great skill and biblical insight by Jason Meyer in his book The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology.
As Meyer aptly notes in the introduction to his book, “Our understanding of how the old and new covenants relate largely determines our understanding of how the Old and New Covenants relate.” Many people struggle to grasp just what is old about one and new regarding the other. To that end, Meyer presents his response to that question in his thesis, that of “Paul conceives of the Mosaic (old) covenant as fundamentally non-eschatological in contrast to the eschatological nature of the new covenant.” It is not as though the old covenant had no purpose. What Meyer is presenting is the newness of the new covenant resides in the ushering in of Christ doing for us what we could never do for ourselves under the demands of the old covenant. Moreover, God “intervenes through His Spirit in the new eschatological age in order to create what He calls for in the new covenant.” Meyer spends the remainder of the book explaining in great detail what he means by those statements.
While all aspects of Meyer’s book are well worth reading, I want to focus this review on a couple elements I found most engaging. The first aspect of this book I found to be of great interest was Meyer’s discussion of the “Old and New Antithesis in Paul.” In this chapter, Meyer outlines the definition and usage of the key words for new used in the New Testament, namely neos and kainos, both which he notes “conveyed different nuances of meaning in the classical period.” Since the idea of a new covenant is relayed in the Pauline corpus, it is thus vital to grasp what this term “new” means and how it is applied to best understand what a “new covenant” is all about, especially in comparison to the old or former covenantal structure. Meyer exegetes a number of key passages in Romans, Ephesians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and Galatians that use the term new, in particular those that frame the discussion of new against the words used for old, specifically archaios and palaios. His conclusion is that Paul “emphasizes the removal of or release from the “old thing,” and the advent and continuation of the “new thing”.
After diving into a number of key Pauline passages to further explore and elaborate on his main thesis, Meyer looks at the Mosaic Covenant from the perspective of the Old Testament and its terminology. This is the other chapter I found worthwhile given that an understanding of the purpose of the old covenant’s purpose from the pages where it was provided is of great importance. Meyer examines three key descriptions of the Israelites, namely them being rebellious, unbelieving, and stiff-necked. Such an attitude required a cure. The cure presented by Moses included receiving God’s word into their hearts, loving and obeying God from their hearts, and finally instruction in the ways of God by the parents to the children so that the people of Israel would remain faithful. Meyer rightly notes that “The three elements (“receive,” “obey,” “teach”) provide a recipe for covenantal faithfulness.” If they would have remained faithful to that covenant, God had promised long life in the land of promise. Unfortunately, “God’s people never fulfill this obligation and suffer the curses of the covenant.” This required a new covenant wrought through the work of the cross so that God could transform the hearts of His people, something they could never do of themselves.
Thus, the old covenant always pointed to the requirement of the new. There was nothing wrong with the old covenant as God’s commands are always righteous and holy. The issue revolved around the inability of humanity to remain faithful to that covenant. As God had planned all along, the Messiah needed to come who could do for us what we could not do. The ushering in of the new covenant through the blood of Christ provided a means by which God would write His word on the hearts of His people as promised in Jeremiah 31. As Meyer so aptly notes, this eschatological intervention is what the new covenant is all about and it is what Paul discusses in his letters. As he saliently notes in the conclusion to this helpful book, Meyer reminds the reader that “the Mosaic covenant was meant to leads us to Christ as the end and goal of the Mosaic law.”
I highly recommend this book for those interested in a better understanding of the old and new covenants, how they relate, where they differ in purpose, and what all that matters for the believer. Accessible, scholarly, full of valuable footnotes and with a comprehensive bibliography for further study, this book is a valuable resource on what the law is all about and how such an important biblical concept should be understood and applied in our lives today.
I received this book for free from B&H Academic for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
on November 9, 2013
A well-written presentation of what has become known as "New Covenant" view of the Law and it's role in the Christian life. Regardless of your own view, this is a helpful read.
on January 12, 2014
Great topic, great points. Not as precise in argument and flow of logic as I would have preferred, but he gets the point made.
on July 3, 2016
It is a well documented position within conservative theology and corroborated by sound exegetical facts.
on July 6, 2014
Hyperlink issue for kindle edition. Unlike other kindle books, the footnotes in this book are not hyperlinked. This makes looking up references difficult. Hope that the publishers would update this soon.